1 [In in D. Evans and P. Cruse (Eds.), Emotion, Evolution, and Rationality, Oxford University Press (2004).


Which Emotions Are Basic?
Jesse Prinz There are two major perspectives on the origin of emotions. According to one, emotions are the products of natural selection. They are evolved adaptations, best understood using the explanatory tools of evolutionary psychology. According to the other, emotions are socially constructed, and they vary across cultural boundaries. There is evidence supporting both perspectives. In light of this, some have argued both approaches are right. The standard strategy for compromise is to say that some emotions are evolved and others are constructed. The evolved emotions are sometimes given the label ―basic,‖ and there is considerable agreement about a handful of emotions in this category. My goal here is to challenge all of these perspectives. I don’t think we should adopt a globally evolutionary approach, nor indulge the radical view that emotions derive entirely from us. I am equally dissatisfied with approaches that attempt to please Darwinians and constructivists by dividing emotions into two separate classes. I will defend another kind of ecumenicalism. Every emotion that we have a name for is the product of both nature and nurture. Emotions are evolved and constructed. The dichotomy between the two approaches cannot be maintained. This thesis will require making some claims that would be regarded as surprising to many emotion researchers. First, while there is a difference between basic emotions and nonbasic emotions, it is not a structural difference. All emotions are fundamentally alike. Second, the standard list of basic emotions, though by many to be universal across cultures, are not basic after all. We don’t have names for the basic emotions. All emotions that we talk about are culturally informed. And finally, this concession to constructivism does not imply that emotions are cognitive in any sense. Emotions are perceptual and embodied. They are gut reactions, and they are not unique to our species. To defend these heresies I will have to present a theory of what the emotions really are. 1. Two Perspectives 1.1 Evolutionary Psychology Evolutionary psychologists claim that emotions are adaptations. They are species-typical psychological responses that evolved to serve various challenges faced by our ancestors. Some defenders of this view restrict their claims to a small set of emotions. The most famous of these are the Big Six, used in Paul 2 Ekman’s research on pancultural recognition of emotional expressions (Ekman et al. 1969). The Big Six emotions are happiness, sadness, fear, surprise, anger, and disgust. These have become the mostly widely accepted candidates for basic emotions. They are thought to be basic in two ways: psychological and biological. They do not contain other emotions as parts, and they are innate. More ambitious evolutionary psychologists argue that many more emotions are biologically based. Ekman (1999) has now expanded his basic emotion list to include: amusement, contempt, contentment, embarrassment, excitement, guilt,

relief. e. (1969) found that an isolated preliterate tribe in New Gineau. Ekman. No shared feature of the environment that can be used to explain this pattern. Frank. People who live in desserts. The belief that the sun is warm can be learned given a general 3 capacity for belief formation. Contrast this with sneezing. 1999). tonal music tends to be more prevalent than atonal music. 2000). They don’t seem to be learnable. Pinker. Like sneezes. across the globe. We acquire this belief on the basis of evidence. Ekman et al. forests. they paired the anger face with an insult. Octives and tonal preferences can even be observed in macaque monkeys (Wright et al. Emotions are associated with patterns of bodily change. and outside of voluntary control. One can add further support to the evolutionary view by raising questions of learnability. emotions have a lot to do with the body. Many cultures isolated from each other have musical systems organized around octaves. Likewise for colors. conclude that the Big Six emotions are universal and biologically basic. 1988. 1997). General-purpose learning abilities together with this shared feature of the environment are sufficient to explain the universal belief that that the sun is warm. I will refer to the theories that restrict evolved emotions to a small set as modest. despite significant environmental variations. the Fore tended to associate facial expressions of the Big Six emotions with the same kinds of situations with which we associate them in the West. The most immodest theories claim that every emotion is part of our bioprogram. For example. Sneezing isn’t the kind of thing that can be learned.g. Likewise for emotions. it can certainly provide some support. and the brain structures underlying emotion are associated with the perception and production of bodily response (Damasio. Immodest theories are ones that try to accommodate many emotions (see. Reptiles are thought to have homologues of some of the structures that have been . One strategy is to establish that certain emotions are universal. like sneezes. and. so they cannot be aquired by weighing evidence. most Fore respondents paired a disgust face with a scenario describing rotten food. despite the fact that color boundaries find no obvious analogues in the physical world. We can fake sneezes.pride in achievement. Emotions are not like beliefs. It is natural to compare the evidence for emotion universals to the evidence for universals in colour perception and music. Some emotions seem to be found pan-culturally. Defenders of the evolutionary approach have brought various kinds of evidence to bear. Contrast this with the fact that people across different cultures have similar responses to music. sensory pleasure.. The fact that people universally believe that the sun is warm is not evidence for the innateness of that belief. and the sadness face with the loss of a child. Sneezing is a involuntary response. None is in any sense learned. and arctic plains seem to partition colour-space in similar ways. They are also passive. and shame. 1999. The sun is warm across the globe. but real sneezes are outside of our control. satisfaction. Ekman et al. While universality does not entail innateness. We do not learn to sneezie by weighing evidence or drawing inferences. These brain structures are phylogenetically ancient.

Cheating others. because they will know that we are unlikely to cheat. because all of these arise in contexts where life is potentially at stake. we may reduce prospects for future reciprocal exchanges of resources. our lungs inhaling. the temptation to cheat others would be much greater. If we are caught cheating. however. 1980). Evolutionary psychologists are committed to this. and they can care for each other when they get old. an emotion is a perception of a patterned change in the body. The perception of these and other changes can be identified with fear. It is advantageous to form long-term bonds with romantic partners. If we have the capacity for guilt. Short-term payoffs are easier to conceptualize than long-term payoffs. such as fear. The evidence adduced so far supports the thesis that emotions are biologically based. anger. The connection between emotions and the body is central to the theory of emotions defended by William James (1884) and Carl Lange (1885). According to them. be seen as supporting the evolutionary view. others will be more likely to cooperate with us. and disgust. 4 without guilt. others may forgive us and cooperate with us in the future. emotions are quite rudimentary from a biological point of view.implicated in human emotions (Maclean. This fact has been used to provide another argument for evolutionary psychology. It prepares an organism for flight. But people are vulnerable to temptation. The bodily response associated with fear is no accident. Two people can share in the burden of raising a child better than one. but I have said nothing about the thesis that emotions are adaptations. and our muscles tensing. This strategy is obviously applicable to the Big Six emotions. They involve bodily responses that we share with much simpler animals. therefore. By demonstrating the survival value of emotions. If we cheat and get caught. We sometimes perceive our hearts racing. so psychological mechanisms that lead us to cope with danger effectively are the kind of thing that evolution would have selected for. they say. Guilt. If the James-Lange theory is right. we flee or fight. can be disadvantageous in the long run. evolutionary psychologists can establish the thesis that emotions would have been favored by natural selection. therefore. When we are afraid. Frank offers a similar analysis of love. Danger poses a major survival challenge. and was extended by Frank (1988). Why do we feel guilty? The evolutionary psychologist says that. We would take advantage of people whenever we anticipated a personal gain and little risk. Both of these responses allow us to cope with potential threats. Fear. 1993). This conception of guilt emerged from the work of Trivers (1971). Adaptive explanations are a powerful tool in promoting the evolutionary approach to emotions. is evolved to cope with dangers (Plutchik. so we have a tendency to abandon future . The evidence favoring the link between emotions and the body can. and show signs of guilt. The adaptiveness of fear lends support to the claim that fear is the product of evolution. Two people can help each other procure food resources. can be regarded as a mechanism that promotes the kind of behavior that maximizes prospects of reciprocal exchange. But adaptationist explanations can also be offered to explain more advanced emotions that have no counterparts in nonhuman animals.

but not the latter. than if she has sex with someone else and remains romantically faithful. When a man’s lover gives 5 birth. According to Frank. love solves this commitment problem. If I love you. and jealousy helps prevent our partners from breaking those commitments. Couples do not necessarily stay together forever. that is better. then he will continue to provide for her. thereby. This account explains why love might have evolved. (1992) reason that. This risk is exacerbated by the fact that there are many fish in the sea. the man runs a risk of investing resources to care for a baby that belongs to another father. Love allows us to make romantic commitments. at least for a while. Men can never be certain about their paternity. Love blinds us to commitment risks (―We are meant for each other‖). If a woman’s male partner has sex with other women. but remains romantically faithful. for fear of infidelity. Buss et al. So male genes promote behaviors designed to reduce the prospects of cuckoldry. then there is no reason for us to make a longterm commitment. then we will be more likely to commit. Male genes make men jealous. the most important thing they can get from male partners after insemination is support. once we have invested in a long-term relationship. If a person chooses to commit to someone now. there is always the possibility that a better partner will appear down the line. A related evolutionary story has been developed to explain romantic jealousy—love’s unlovely counterpart. Women never have to worry about investing in someone else’s baby. and you know that I am unlikely to be faithful to you. It is difficult to raise a baby alone. If a man’s female partner has become romantically involved with someone else but remains sexually faithful. then. she knows. If the man has fallen in love with another woman. Selfish genes do not want to waste energy caring for other people’s babies. on Frank’s view. When a woman has a baby. and it makes us jump into situations that have uncertain long-term prospects (―True love lasts forever‖). but they face another challenge. Short-term temptation problem and the many fish problem are serious impediments to the commitment seekers. however. Buss et al. the offspring could belong to another father. (1992) argue that men and women face different challenges when it comes to fidelity. So. Driven by selfish genes. and women take on special burdens of childcare when their babies are young. If I know that you are likely to be unfaithful to me. we would often forgo what’s best for us. from the gene’s point of view. In the former scenario. even though such a commitment would be very advantageous down the line. often violently so. It is hard for women to forage when they must dedicate constant attention to their young. Women need men to provide for them. and you love me. If things worked out this way. that support may be lost. she will invest in her baby’s wellbeing.projects in favor of present rewards. that it is hers. women should be more perturbed to hear that their male partners have fallen in love with someone else than to hear that their male partners are having . we run the risk of destroying the pair-bond to find gratification in extra-pair coupling. if this evolutionary story is correct. and men become especially jealous when their female partners are found to be having sex with other men. but love gives them the reassurance (or foolishness) that they need to get together in the first place. For women.

Constructionists often begin their critique of Darwinian approaches by claiming that evolutionary psychologists have an incorrect theory of what the emotions are. and we could form different appraisals. we are usually exercising our capacity to choose. But. They argue that emotions are neither fleeting. We pretend that they are like animal instincts. They argue that emotions are socially constructed. love. the constructionist approach is supported by some powerful lines of evidence. The prediction made by the hypothesis that jealously is an evolved solution to a commitment problem is confirmed. Emotions. Advanced emotions. Appraisals represent situations as matters of concern. Frank and Buss defend an immodest view about the evolutionary origins of our emotions. According to Averill. In so doing. but it would be mistake to think constructionism is moribund. and encompasses emotions that may be uniquely human. nor bodily. These last example. says Averill (1980). 1. we engage in behavior and decision making that has been prescribed by our culture. illustrate how evolutionary thinking can explain some of our most advanced emotions. An appraisal is a judgment about how one’s situation bears on wellbeing. Critics of evolutionary psychology argue that emotions are products of nurture rather than nature. They reflect they values and convictions of a cultural group.sex with someone else. according to constructionists. I said that evolutionary psychology fits naturally with a James6 Lange theory of the emotions. nor involuntary. Men should be more perturbed by sexual infidelity. We can have an emotion without a racing heart. rather than cognitive plots. When we act out an emotion script. This approach has fewer supporters these days than it has had in the past. and jealousy. we view these choices as involuntary. guilt. Constructionists typically reject this picture. Some examples have already been mentioned. Each emotion script dictates a different range of actions. are disclaimed actions: they are voluntary choices that we dupe ourselves into treating as involuntary. Scripts are instructions about what to do when something of concern transpires. and views of this kind are gaining ground. such as guilt and love have no obvious bodily correlates. It has become increasingly popular to suppose that all of our emotions are adaptations. The tendency to associate emotions with bodily states is related to the tendency to see emotions as passive.2 Social Constructionism Not everyone wants to jump on the Darwinian bandwagon. Evolutionary psychologists have argued that our innate affective endowment extends beyond the Big Six. We could break form the script. Where fear and anger have identifiable . This is exactly what they find. Appraisals and scripts are enculturated. Social constructionists sometimes defend their position by pointing to examples of emotions that are not highly associated with bodily states. and these actions may be quite complex and protracted. This view is nicely represented in the work of Averill (1980). according to which emotions are fleeting perceptions of involuntary. patterned bodily changes designed to prepare an organism for adaptive behavioral responses. Averill also says that emotions need not involve any perturbations of the body. Like evolutionary psychology. emotions are construed as cognitive appraisals nested in behavioral scripts.

some of its culturally specific meaning.expressions. We regard anger as an irrepressible basic emotion. by apologizing or improving our behavior. Anger is. Malay also has the term ―amok. on closer examination. We can be in love or plagued by guilt for years. perhaps. The Malay language has is no exact synonym for ―anger. And then can also last a long time. 2000). Emotions apparently vary across borders. losing. 1970).‖ which is associated with sullen brooding. When we are in love. rather than immediate gut reactions. Westerners may recognize something like amae in children but they rarely attribute anything of that kind to adults. the startle response one feels when one trips. This rich vocabulary of interdependence is evidence of a collectivist orientation in Japan. 1973). We have imported this term. seems to involve a fairly complex conceptualization of the world. Moreover. after all. We sometimes use anger strategically. There are other emotions that have no clear analogue in the West. a case in point. In addition. Consider amae. no facial visage of love. We believe in love at first sight. there is. Constructionists believe that this orientation . again. But this may be a convenient illusion. When we are guilty. signs of anger are rarely seen (Briggs. In Malaysia. Anger. say. Love and guilt are much more elaborate than. Infantile feelings of dependency are disvalued in out autonomous culture. Anger is not an animal reflex. we need to construe something as an offense. Aggressive responses would be too risky in a small homogeneous culture living in harsh conditions. The complex ways that love and guilt unfold seem much more voluntary than the shock that follows a trip or tumble. it seems. Japanese also has a term oime for a feeling of indebtedness and fureai. It is possible all bouts of anger are strategic choices (Solomon. culturally informed moral judgments. a Japanese term for what has been characterized as an indulgent feeling of dependency. The primary source of evidence for constructionism is cultural variation. as when we stage a bout of outrage while returning a defective item at a shop (Greenspan. akin to what a child feels towards a mother (Doi. rather than aggression (Goddard. with its attendant bouts of paranoid ideation and fantasies of revenge. to be angry. we engage in various forms of courtship.‖ which refers to a violent frenzy. there are analogues of anger. the kinds of judgments and decisions we are led to when in love or guilty are much more amenable to top-down influence. these emotions seem to be associated with complex patterns of behavior. 1996). 1991). we seek to make amends. no grimace of guilt. Constructionists argue that. they can be interpreted as signs of enculturation. but they take on different forms. We often presume that anger is an emotion that we share with other creatures: an involuntary disposition to aggress. 1980). The constructionist approach can be extended to subsume emotions that seem biologically grounded. 7 The same can be said of jealousy. indicative of social scripts. which refers to a feeling of connectedness (Markus and Kitayama.‖ The closest term is ―marah. and we vow to stay with our loved ones forever. and requires the deployment of subtle. It seems these emotions can occur without any perturbation of the body. In Inuit culture. but. but a sophisticated moral attitude. These very facts were at the heart of Frank’s evolutionary theory.

I offer three reasons for that assessment. He defines Ekman’s Big Six as affect programs: modular. they say. these are not modular of phylogenetically ancient. All emotions also seem to involve overlapping brain structures. automatic. They begin with a subset of Ekman’s Big Six (dropping off surprise). Thus. may fall into this class. The diversity and cultural specificity of emotion terms certainly gives one pause. such as running amok. Other emotions are cognitive elaborations. all are valenced. and all can affect attention and memory. In this light.g. emotions have a great deal in common. would be preferable. These can be understood in evolutionary terms. can be identified with a distinctive mode of informational processing. and all can be affected by the same clinical conditions (e. nonbasic emotions are amendable to cultural influence. I will not offer a full assessment of these hybrid theories. I will simply say that a unified theory. all are eruptive. Griffiths also thinks we can extend the evolutionary approach to emotions such as guilt and jealousy. that treats all emotions as structurally alike. He argues that emotions are not a natural kind.. But their theory is threatened by a second worry. Because of their cognitive component. emotions begin to look less like biological universals and more like enculturated scripts. Perhaps both approaches are right. First. built into our cognitive architecture.leads the Japanese to have emotions that we would find alien. Amae and some culture-bound emotional disorders. along with cognitive representations. all are motivating. Thus.3 Hybrid Theories There is evidence for evolutionary psychology and for constructionism. both ancient and modern. a Darwinian story can be told about the basic emotions. but they apply to 8 different emotions. Hybrid theories cannot easily explain the fact that our emotion terms cut across highly cognitive and highly noncognitive episodes. Both approaches enjoy support. nonbasic emotions and basic emotions have a different structure. he argues. which have homologues in nonhuman animals. and argue that these are basic. psychopaths have dampened Big Six emotions as well as dampened social emotions). Griffiths allows space for emotions that bear the marks of culture. Such a hybrid has been defended by Griffiths (1997). and a (partially) constructionist story can be told about nonbasic emotions. but. Oatley and Johnson-Laird can explain the similarities because they believe that all emotions contain the same basic parts. Anger can be stirredup . response patterns. In contrast to evolved emotions. Nonbasic emotions comprise basic emotion processing modes. 1. This presents a puzzle for the emotion researcher. They are basic emotions plus appraisal judgments. All emotions are typically (if not always) accompanied by expressive behavior and bodily responses. These commonalities are especially problematic for Griffiths’ hybrid. Another hybrid theory is defended by Oatley and Johnson-Laird (1987). How does one choose between such radically different alternatives? One strategy is to avoid the choice. We can divide and conquer emotions by saying that some are evolved and some are constructed. Each emotion of this list. because he argues that emotions for disjoint subclasses.

Does this mean we should distinguish two forms of fear and two forms of anger? Should we say that ―fear‖ is ambiguous between a basic and a nonbasic emotion? Or. A startling 56% associated the sadness face with what Westerners call anger. both simple and complex. Our emotion vocabulary does not draw a neat line between emotions that are primitive and emotions that are cognitively sophisticated. rather than surprise. The third point against hybrid views is closely related to the second. This latter finding may support the constructionist hypothesis that small homogenous groups respond to offense with something akin to sulking. Revision of folk categories may be inevitable in the end. I think the latter option should be the default. The difficulty is that evolutionary psychologists and social constructionists often try to explain the exact same emotions. That research is quite compelling at first blush. or by reading the latest election returns. But which kind of theory should we adopt? Should we be immodest evolutionary psychologists or immodest cultural constructionists? I will argue that neither approach is satisfying. Attempts to put different emotions into different categories do violence to folk taxonomy. for example. In the Ekman et al. First. In some cases. We have seen. One and the same emotion can be elicited in numerous ways. It would be nice to have a unified theory of emotions to capture the sense in which these episodes are alike. but that should be avoided if possible. 2. and only 50% recognized anger. Ordinary emotion talk recognizes something similar across episodes of anger that are caused bottom-up and top-down.by a glare or by a chain of high-level moral reasoning. the Fore respondents modal responses did not match up with a Western control sample. we must weigh the evidence introduced in section 1. Russell (1994) has argued that the correlation between Fore and Western responses may also be seriously inflated due to problems with Ekman et al. that both camps try to explain love and anger. I think we should aim for a unified theory of the emotions. we need to decide which are which. We must find another route to unity. 45% of the Fore associated the surprise face with fear. Which side of the Darwin-Culture divide has the better arguments? Let’s begin with evolutionary psychology. Assessing Evolutionary Psychology and Social Constructionism To adjudicate between competing approaches to the emotions. It would be easier to adopt a hybrid strategy if there was a clear indication of which emotions are cultural and which are biologically based. choosing .’s methodology. (1969) study of the Fore. Fear can be triggered by a sudden loss of support. If the boundary is unclear. 1994. should we instead. only 44% of respondents correctly identified the facial expression of disgust. If some emotions are socially constructed and others are evolved. but it begins to unravel under scrutiny (see Russell. resist Oatley and Johnson-Laird’s suggestion that emotions can 9 be classified by their degree of cognitive elaboration. what are we to make of the claim that certain emotions are universal? This conclusion is based on crosscultural research on facial expressions. for a trenchant critical review). The Fore were given forced choice test. the major motive for adopting a hybrid view is lost.

but subtly different conceptually. may disvalue sexual infidelity over romantic infidelity because they have been enculturated to regard women as property. results really don’t demonstrate emotion universals. we could not be sure that their emotions are exactly like ours. . it causes sadness. rather than universal emotions. the correlations would have dropped considerably. behaviorally. they don’t care about the feelings of their property. and fear.10 between sets of three faces. Adaptive responses can be discovered by individuals or tailored by cultures. Immodest evolutionary psychologists say that jealousy is innate. Men want to control their property. One can also raise objections to the adaptationist tales told by evolutionary psychologists. woman’s jealousy may reflect a pattern of reasoning that woman can make. They show. say. when given few response options to choose from. indicating that cultures may customize our innate affective stock in different ways. for their part. that a significant number of Fore respondents will associate four of six specially selected emotion expressions with words or scenarios that match the responses of Westerners. If women are objectified in this way. Evolutionary psychologists try to establish that jealousy is innate by pointing to gender differences. What matters is their 11 behavior. and so forth. historically. their preferences and affections are not salient to men. Fore emotions could be similar to ours expressively. We do not need to postulate a special innate emotion beyond members of the Big Six. Here is another possibility. and disgust. men may care more about sexual infidelity because they are more preoccupied with sex. because you may have to face life alone or compete with another suitor. because you have been violated. phenomenologically. This is consistent with the constructionist conjecture that that there are multiple species of anger. respondents had to simply name a face. The species of anger illustrate the possibility of cultural adaptations. Imagine that jealousy is a blend of several more basic emotions: sadness. So. meant losing the resources essential to life. but these are easy to explain on a cultural model. Thus. Indeed. Finally. Women are more concerned about emotional infidelity because. To show that an emotion is adaptive does not entail that it is a biological adaptation. Consider jealousy. Losing a man. anger. and associating them with scenarios and words that had been picked by the experimenters. In an open-choice paradigm where. Ekman himself (1999) now talks about universal emotion families. It also causes anger. one should show that there is no other explanation for it that does not add needless code to our bioprogram. To show that something is an adaptation. infidelity may causes disgust because we feel that our lover’s bodies have been contaminated. Jealousy may be a name for this blend. cognitively. fear. or it may reflect a learned pattern inculcated within the culture in which women have been systematically disadvantaged. When someone is unfaithful to you. Thus. Men. Other explanations are easy to devise. you may lose your partner. they have depended on men for material resources. For example. the Ekman et al. we have independent reason to think that infidelity will trigger a blend of negative emotions. even if they associated the faces with scenarios and words in the same way as Westerners.

The claim that some emotions. This can be explained by appeal to cultural differences in male domination and liberal attitudes towards sex. evolutionary psychology still enjoys considerable support. and these changes are very difficult to control. Likewise. such as the Netherlands and Germany. Emotions have obvious analogues in other creatures. We cannot assume that our institutions and preferences have always been the norm. Frank suggests that love is a biological program to ensure pair-bonding for the purposes of raising children. where mothers raise offspring with their brothers. A person can be disgusted by peanut butter for a lifetime. constructionists may be mistaken to assume that emotions can be disembodied. This sounds uncomfortably close to Western ideals. with both preferring sexual infidelity to romantic infidelity (Buunk et al. we might expect little cultural variation. Some cultures have arranged marriages. 2000) found activation in anterior cingualte cortex and the insula when subjects recalled episodes of guilt. and they are known to play a role in perception and regulation of the body (Damasio. In some countries. This only shows that ―love‖ anfd ―guilt‖ can be used to name dispositional states. Of course. in general. 1999). we would distrust the apologies of a defendant who showed no signs of embodied distress when confronted with the . male and female responses are more alike. and some have avunculate arrangements. That is not what we find. Bartels and Zeki (2000) found similar activations when subjects viewed photographs of their lovers. so the integrity of a pair-bond is not especially important. without feeling disgust at every moment. Putting the question of how any specific emotion is acquired. one can be in love or guilty for years 12 without having a constant state of arousal or indigestion. But someone who reported being disgusted by peanut butter would be accused of dishonesty if she were not disposed to have a somatic reaction when she came into contact with peanut butter. 1996). and some appear early in development before there has been much time for cultural learning. In some cultures. First. We can only specuilate about how children were raised and how relationships were structured in the Pleistocene. and in chimpazees. But existing functional imaging studies of these two emotions tell against the constructionist conjecture. To postulate a genetic explanation for the kinds of relationships that we currently value in the West is a bit like postulating an innate basis for capitalism or health spas. Despite these concerns about adaptationist explanations. there is overwhelming evidence that emotions are associated with basic bodily responses and ancient brain structures. It is hard to reconcile with cultural variation. Where does this leave social constructionism? First. such as guilt and love. Shin et al. offspring are raised with the assistance of larger groups. It may be an inevitable byproduct. depends on our biology. All emotions are accompanied by changes in our autonomic nervous systems. If gender differences in jealousy were genetically based. These structures show up all imaging studies of the emotions. Similar points can be made about love. we can safely assume that having emotions. are not associated with bodily perturbations has not been fully investigated.We can tell an evolutionary account of male sex drive without supposing that male jealousy is innate.

in emotion vocabulary. If it were. but they raise that possibility. they need not bear on the identity of the emotions. A change in script is not necessarily a change in emotions. They offer a flawed theory of what emotions. The first tenet concerns the form of emotions. The same emotion can have different effects. are. 13 3. Equally. Emotions need not involve any judgments. i. Perhaps a man’s jealousy can be set off by smelling foreign cologne on his lover’s blouse. Constructionists have an unfortunate habit of inferring cultural variation in the emotions from variation in emotional behaviors. The theory has two central tenets. More concretely. It should sound conceptually strained to say that love and marriage can come apart. If love leads to marriage in one culture and to a steamy extramarital liaison in another. I said that emotions bear an intimate relation to the body. I think the program has much to recommend it.e.. Culture can certainly influence when and whether an emotion arises. An emotion can be very short-lived. and why amok is prevalent in Malaysia. we need not say there are two forms of love. Social constructionists over-emphasize the cognitive and underestimate the centrality of bodily responses. and in culture-bound emotional disorders provides circumstantial evidence for variation in emotions. as well as the valence of our emotional reactions. They can explain why amae is valued in Japan. Nor need they involve protracted patterns of scripted behavior. Emotions can certainly be triggered by complex acts of deliberation. Escaping the Predicament 3.victims of her crime. The same situation can be associated with different responses. If what I have been arguing is correct. Constructionists can do an admirable job of relating particular emotional responses to cultural factors. their representational format. in essence. but they can also be set off without any thought at all. we would expect to see our emotion vocabulary change as new attitudes about how we ought to behave ourselves emerged. The variability in facial response. we would distrust the person who claimed to love someone romatically but never showed the slightest signs of passion. As I said above. Fear can be triggered by seeing a snake.1 Embodied Appraisal Theory We need a theory of emotions that can steer between the extremes of evolutionary psychology and social constructionism. Despite these complaints against social constructionism. see Prinz (2004). nor cognitively mediated scripts. evolutionary psychologists underestimate the contributions of culture and learning. For a full defense. I think James and Lange were right to identify emotions with perceptions of bodily changes. What one culture finds outrageous. I will outline such a theory. When more protracted patterns of behavior do arise. Constructionists also go too far in emphasizing the role of cognitions in emotion. another may find rewarding (consider variable attitudes towards cannibalism). 1996). This approach has recently . Emotions are neither fixed bioprograms. In this section. evolutionary psychologists have not been able to establish that emotions are exactly the same across cultures. before the image has even reached the neocortex (LeDoux. These differences do not entail that cultures have distinct emotions. This leaves us in a serious predicament. They offer a flawed theory of how emotions arise.

Consider how this works in a typical case. Loud noises are not the only fear trigger. The perception of that your response is your fear. You hear a loud sudden noise. with James and Lange. collectively. And perceptions of patterned changes in out body represent danger (and loss. anger represents offenses.). and if it was acquired for coping with danger. Now suppose. It might be tempting to identify fear with the representations in the . fear must contain the judgment that ―I am in danger. and vasculature. If the body is stimulated through drugs or through feedback from facial expressions. If body perception is impaired. According to leading theories of intentionality. The brain centers associated with emotion are also associated with perception and regulation of the body. and offense. Fear makes us run because fear represents danger. For this to work. not by description (Dretske. The second tenet concerns the content of emotions. A perception of a patterned bodily response can represent danger in virtue of the fact that it has the function of serving as a danger detector. Their bodily theory gives the impression that emotions are primarily in the business of telling us how about our blood pressure. The response is perceived. or an infelicitous election return can all have the same impact. A mental state represents danger if (a) it reliably occurs when danger occurs. James and Lange had little to say about what emotions represent. there must be a psychological mechanism in place that sustains the link between dangers and perceived bodily responses. A tone in a smoke alarm represents fire because it is set up to be set off by fire. Our mental representations of all these fear elicitors group together into a mental file. Why? It’s certainly not because our hearts are racing. just as there is 14 a mechanism in a smoke alarm that gets the tone to go off when fires draw near. and offense. etc. When any item in the elicitation file is activated. Many emotion researchers think that such conclusions about what emotions represent can only be maintained if we define emotions as cognitive. a snake. If that change reliably arises when we are in danger. however.been defended on neurobiological grounds by Antonio Damasio (1994). In other words. and so on. the items in the elicitation file calibrate fear to danger. A sudden loss of support. That auditory state sets you body into a patterned response. emotions are felt.). emotions are like smoke alarms. To represent danger. mental states represent by functional covariation.‖ they suppose. that fear is a perception of a patterned change in the body. and it obtains that function via an elicitation file filled with a wide range of perceptions and judgments. 1988). Fear represent danger because it has the function of occurring when danger occurs. then the same can be said about our perception of that change. fear results. Danger is what unites all the disparate contents of the elicitation file. Fear represents danger in virtue of the fact that. This makes little sense of the role that emotions play in decision making and action. because they are set up to be set off by danger (and loss. I think this is wrongheaded. muscle tension. We run when we are afraid. emotions wane. and (b) it was acquired for that purpose. and they have the function of doing so. etc. Sadness represents loss.

Culture can help to re-calibrate existing emotions to new eliciting conditions in this way. In sum. Jealousy is an example of that. Moreover. incidence. I think emotions are perceptions of bodily changes that represent such things as dangers. 3. I call this the embodied appraisal theory (Prinz. to include representations of people in distress. Content depends on what the emotion is set up to be set off by. This is a surprising discovery because it is sometimes assumed that the James-Lange approach to emotions is . our mental files can grow. A change in ―display rules‖ alters the bodily basis of the emotion. and new files can be established. and they are appraisals because they represent matters of concern. If these considerations are correct. For example. and too variable over time. That would be a mistake.2 How Can Culture Influence Emotions? If emotions are embodied appraisals. but the process may be relatively simple. but. In other cases. 15 Culture can also affect the content of emotions. form. culture can affect the intensity. Schadenfruede is born. and content of our emotions. A loud noise ends before the fear that it causes even begins. and offenses. we can train ourselves to suppress facial expressions or control breathing.elicitation file. new emotions can be acquired by simply combining together existing embodied appraisals to suit situations that have complex emotional significance. Cultural factors will determine how intensely this emotion is felt by affecting attitudes towards sexuality and the material consequences of infidelity. Emotions are set off with the help of elicitation files. Emotions are embodied because they are perceptions of bodily changes. Patriotism emerges when joy is recalibrated to national symbols and the accomplishments of fellow citizens. The file that sustains the relationship between joy and the world will be expanded. 2004). in the course of life. an episode of fear can outlast the duration of an active representation in its elicitation file. In Malaysia. the behavioral pattern of running amok establishes a distinctive bodily pattern. and then clusters of new items that are closely related take on a functional autonomy that allows them to trigger the emotion without aid of anything in the original file. Ekman talks about the cultural influence on facial expressions. then new emotions can be acquired in various ways. and he argues that such influences do not affect the emotions themselves. Amae emerges when cultural factors in Japan lead people to have a warm feeling in the context of dependency relations. The file contents are too varied. culture may encourage people to act out molar behaviors that reshape our bodily responses. losses. Imagine a sadistic culture that encourages people to take joy in the suffering of others. Guilt emerges when sadness gets recalibrated to personal transgressions. because they are set up to be set off by such things. Some of these files may be biologically based. which is much more active than ordinary Western anger. The establishment of new elicitation files has not been investigated. In some cases. culture may have even greater impact. Culture can exert an influence on how our bodies react. Thus. rather than the perception of the bodily response. under cultural influence. Items are added to an existing file be association. This in untenable if emotions are perceptions of bodily changes. More dramatically.

They may be outgrowths and byproducts of more fundamental emotions. darkness.1 Rethinking the Big Six To find emotions that are biologically basic. Sadness and disgust probably don’t divide into subspecies. the negative response to snakes is more specific than fear. satisfaction associated with goal attainment. but it does not require inference. fear may not correspond to a single pattern of response. Anger may emerge as a blend of something like goal frustration and aggressiveness. Each may begin with a set of responses tuned to highly specific elicitors. but extensions of these that emerge in a cultural setting. I have just shown how emotions can be both embodied and culturally informed. 3. Culture reshapes existing bodily responses and re-calibrates existing emotions. If these speculations are right. It looks like an innate form of fear. then the Big Six emotions may not be innate. We may have an innate elicitation file containing other causes of the same bodily response (loss of support. however. Disgust may begin as a form of physical revulsion that ultimately gets expanded to subsume moral aberrations. then the emotions that we have words for may all be culturally informed. Second. it is almost certainly true of our more advanced emotions. sustained conditioning. and joy from play. and some may have several component subspecies. This response may need to be triggered under the right environmental conditions.incompatible with a constructionist approach. even in adulthood. Sadness may begin as separation distress and then expand to encompass other forms of loss through learning and enculturation. Happiness. These may be more basic than fear. which are given the technical terms worry (associated with future dangers) and panic (associated with present dangers). loud noises). For example. Emotion researchers distinguish 16 two subspecies. induction. This account presupposes that some emotions are biologically basic. This fits with the observation that the Big Six are not exactly the same across cultures. What. A similar fragmentation may occur for other entries on the Big Six list. we need to look for body patterns that are responsive to concerns in the absence of learning. there is evidence that we are phyiscally perturbed by seeing snakes even if we have never been harmed by a snake. looming objects. but these do not add up to a generalized danger detector. but they may begin life as much narrower emotions than their adult analogues. But is it really fear? Should we conclude that fear is an innate emotion? I am inclined towards a negative answer. It is not a representation of danger-in-general. Each culture may adapt the primitive stock of biologically basic emotions in distinctive ways. First. Which Emotions Are Basic? 3. Ordinary emotion words do not name the highly restricted and narrow emotional responses programmed by our genes. or other learning processes. for example. If this is true of the Big Six. are the emotions that exist prior to cultural influence? 3. may subdivide into sensory pleasures.2 Conclusions . Surprise may subdivide into a positive sense of interest or wonder and a negative state that cannot be fully differentiated from low-intensity panic. then. If so.

They are simply perceptions of blended bodily patterns. Even emotions that we acquire by blending have this simply structure. evolutionists are right to think that emotions originate in our genes. The embodied appraisal reconciles these problems. J. I said that social constructionsits are wrong about the nature of emotions. Angleitner. Elicitation files are content-determining causes of our emotions. Theories of emotion (pp. emotions can be both embodied and socially constructed. .). emotions are embodied states. but its conditions of elicitation. not cognitive scripts. B. Buunk. every emotion that we have a word for bears the mark of both nature and nurture. MA: Harvard University Press. 251-255. physiology. and defenders of hybrid views are right that we can have it both ways. No emotion contains other 17 emotions as component parts. hybrid theories are wrong. Cambridge.. as well as perceptual representations. J. (1996). and hence its content. familiar emotions (including the Big Six) show the marks of learning. M. not constituent parts. research and experience: Vol. Thus. Contra Evolutionary Psychology. Contra. A constructivist view of emotion. In R. (1980). and all bear the marks of both nature and nurture. Evolutionary psychology is inadequate because it does not do justice to the contributions of learning and culture. Kellerman (eds. Some emotions are attained by adding conceptually sophisticated judgments to our elicitation files.. Each is structurally analogous. all named emotions are very much alike. D. Bartels. Psychological Science. By the same token. Oubaid. All named emotions are very much alike. R. constructionists are right to emphasize enculturation. No lexicalized emotion in biologically basic. hybrid views. Each is built up from a biologically basic emotion. And all emotions have elicitation files that can contain judgments. A. Emotion: Theory. and Semmelroth. is influenced by learning. Briggs. (2000). but they carry information by being calibrated to matters of concern. R. S. rather than bodily responses. and Buss. because they emphasize cognitively mediated cultural scripts. Buss. All have the same internal structure.. NY: Academic Press. On this approach. D. (1970). I. J. L. but this does not alter their structure. In sum. Sex differences in jealousy in evolutionary and cultural perspective: Tests from the Netherlands. A. 829-834. Each is simply a perception of a patterned bodily change. Emotions are simple perceptions of bodily changes. Neuroreport. V. They get calibrated through elicitation files that can be culturally informed. New York. The neural basis of romantic love. D. Larsen. J. and culture can also alter our patterns of bodily response. But there is a sense in which all lexicalized emotions are psychologically basic.. Thus.. 3. Westen. Contra social constructionism. Sex differences in jealousy: Evolution. Never in anger: Portrait of an Eskimo family. and psychology. 305-339).We are now in a position to take stock and find our way out of the predicament. (1992). References Averill. 11. Plutchik and H. and Zeki.. everybody is wrong and every body is right.

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